Fascinated by the world behind the camera, actor Sharad Malhotra harbored the dream of wearing the director’s hat for long. The opportunity finally knocked his door in 2018, when his friend Pooja Bisht shared a one-line concept with him which he further turned into a story with his co-writer and associate Smriti Singh. The short feature titled Prem Gajra Aur Chilli Chicken (PGCC) finally released this year on the streaming platform Disney+Hotstar and is garnering a lot of attention.
Looking back, Sharad fondly remembers how he was shooting for his show Kasam Tere Pyaar Ki when the PGCC journey began. “We were on a tight schedule but somehow I managed my time to work on this project. The moment the show got over, I started building my team, first, we formed a production team, and then I approached my close friend Prateek Chakravorty of Pramod Films,” shares the actor. He adds, “Prateek liked the concept and thought I would act in it. He was taken by surprise when I told him I want to direct it. But he was more than happy to fund my dream. He always pushes me to do my best. We both have immense trust on each other that has not changed over the years. He was like ‘you make the film, I’ll take care of the rest’… He’s always there for me.” A 30-40 member team worked for 32 hours to complete this 20-minute long short feature. He recalls about a day when they had an outdoor shoot but it suddenly started raining. “I got worried and secretly prayed for a miracle to happen, the rain stopped for about 15 minutes allowing us time to get what we wanted. Then there was another time when I wanted to shoot on a particular bridge in Powai but was told it’ll take time to get permission. Everyone wanted me to change the location but I didn’t want to compromise or lose hope and we did get the permission after two days… So yes, making this film was a fulfilling and blissful experience,” he says, praising the entire cast and crew for being both efficient and supportive.
“When you do something new, it is never a smooth ride. But your efforts and prayers never go unanswered… We are getting so much love for the film that also gives out a strong message to society. When you watch it, you would know what I mean. Everyone watching the film is talking about the ending that is quite shocking. Many have told me that they were not expecting the film to end like that,” he adds. So when do we see him directing his next? “I’m an actor first, it’s my first love and I feel there’s more for me to achieve and so much more within me to give and learn. I’m still learning and want to concentrate on acting now. At the same time, I always felt drawn towards the art of direction and every time I view something, I see it from an actor and a director’s perspective. I was planning to helm my own project, that’s when Prem Gajra Aur Chilli Chicken happened. Making PGCC has been a challenging, blissful and full-filling experience, it’s my labour of love. I’m happy how it turned out… So, yes I am on the lookout for the right story, and I would like to direct my next someday,” he adds.